What, exactly, is SEO? Good question. Newer internet marketers, and even some not-so-new to the industry, may be wondering just what SEO means, and how it applies to their own online business. Let's take a quick overview of SEO and see how you can use it to leverage your own online business.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a fancy term used to describe the activities used by webmasters to get the search engines to rank their websites higher in the search results. It's generally known that the top three spots on any search results page will receive the vast majority of the click-through traffic, making those top spots very valuable. The old rule of "location, location, location" holds true for Internet traffic, as well as brick-and-mortar businesses. A top three position on Google is as valuable as a Rodeo Drive address.
So an entire industry called SEO has been developed to help website owners attain those top search positions. The industry began in the mid-1990's when YaHoo was born and the concept of keywords was first introduced. Webmasters quickly learned that the search engines looked favorably upon web pages that contained keywords that matched the search phrase being used. In the eyes of the search engines, the more keywords, the more relevant the page must be to the search topic. And thus, the concept of keyword stuffing was born.
By the turn of the century, many of the smaller search engines had fallen out of favor and Google had emerged as an 800-pound Google-rilla. At this point, keywords became a little less important to page ranking and more weight was given to the relative "importance" of the site -- which was measured by the number of clicks the site received for certain keywords.
These days, both keywords and click-through rates remain part of the search engine equation, but they are not nearly as critical to page rank as proving that your site is "popular" among related sites. While Google refuses to publish its algorithm for determining search positions (for very good reasons), it is universally understood that page rank depends heavily on the quantity and quality of any inbound web links. Thus, modern day SEO efforts are geared toward building links from high quality sites related to the topic of the subject website.
And how is this done? The options are many and some SEO activities are definitely more effective than others. Some of the more effective SEO solutions include writing a good quality article and asking a high-ranking website to publish it, along with a link back to your website. You can trade links with other websites, but that is not as effective as having one-way links pointing to your site (Google can easily see the link pattern and discounts reciprocal links.) You can join blogs and forums that relate to your site, and leave a signature link back to your site.
But all of this activity takes time, and if you own more than one website, it's very possible that you will need to outsource some, or all, of your SEO work. Your outsourcing options include hiring a specialized SEO company to review your site and implement the necessary activities. This option can be a little pricey and is usually used by only the largest online marketers (think WalMart).
Another option is to hire freelancers to help you identify potential link partners and then contact them for link opportunities. Freelancers can also write articles and blog posts for you. You can even hire freelancers to research keywords for you.
If you don't want to manage a subcontractor, you may find that SEO software is your best solution. There are a number of good software programs that will help you identify the most profitable keywords, locate high-authority link partners, and automatically submit your site to search engines.
But once you gain a few good quality links to your website, don't stop there or your website will gradually stagnate and lose favor with the search engines. Link building is an important ongoing marketing activity for any online business. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of SEO and how you can use it to attain the best search engine rankings for your website.